By Ryan Sitzmann, IDP analyst at Fantasy Football Maniaxs
I know it's super early for 2010 IDP rankings. However, I always like to start them early and get a foundation built. I will continue to update these rankings throughout the offseason to reflect changes in free agency, defensive schemes, defensive playing time, rookie draft picks, etc.
I would also love to get feedback from my readers. Oftentimes we get stuck in our own philosophies and tendencies, so it's nice to get a different perspective on my rankings. Your comments will definitely influence my rankings.
Well, enough chitchat. Here are the preliminary 2010 IDP defensive back rankings.
FA = 2010 Free Agent
DSC = Possible 2010 Defensive Scheme Change
S = Possible Sleeper/Undervalued Player
B = Possible Bust/Overvalued Player
R = Injury Risk
Solo Tackle = 2 points
Assist = 1 point
Sack = 7 points
Interception = 12 points
Fumble Recovery = 5 points
Defensive backs have the most variability in point production from year to year. In other words, your top 20 defensive backs in 2010 could be quite different from your top 20 defensive backs in 2009 (especially in "big play leagues").
Much of this variability is because, many times, a defensive back's production is heavily tied to the performance of that specific team's front seven. Their production is also heavily tied to how they are used in the defensive scheme (especially safeties).
For example, Roman Harper started off the 2009 season very well. However, after both of New Orleans' cornerbacks got injured, they started playing Harper in coverage more as opposed to bringing him up close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Consequently, his tackle numbers severely dipped.
In addition, the defensive back position, more than any other position, has the most substantial number of fantasy producers on the waiver wire because many unexpected fantasy performers emerge from the defensive back ranks throughout the season (e.g. Bernard Pollard).
With this being said, I find it hard to use one of my first defensive picks on a defensive back. In reality, there aren't as many "locks" at this position as there are at the linebacker position (e.g. Patrick Willis, Jon Beason, London Fletcher, etc.).
Therefore, I usually try to grab a solid veteran fantasy producer like LCB Antoine Winfield or SS Brian Dawkins
and get riskier at this position with my other picks. Not only does
this free me up to use higher draft picks on other defensive positions,
but it also allows me to more easily drop players during the season to
pick up potential defensive back studs off the waiver wire.
1. SS Bernard Pollard (HOU) - What a story this is. After being cut by the Chiefs before the season started, Pollard signed with the Texans in Week Four and wasted no time in becoming a fantasy stud.
In 14 games, Pollard had 82 solo tackles, 19 assists, three FRs, four INTs, 1.5 sacks and two defensive TDs. I wouldn't expect two defensive TDs again, but Pollard does provide the ultimate mix of dependable tackling and big-play production.
2. FS Eric Weddle (SD) - Weddle was the No. 1
defensive back on most fantasy rankings heading into the 2009 season.
His value takes a slight dip because of his injury and also because his
overall tackling numbers were a bit below his usual average. Injury
free, he should be able to rebound next year and be a top two or three
3. SS Tyvon Branch (OAK) - Branch had a very nice
tackling year by registering 97 solo tackles and 26 assists and is a
top five DB in tackling-heavy leagues. Most of his value resides in the
fact that he plays the SS position in Oakland, which has proven to be a
very lucrative position in the past (e.g. Gibril Wilson). As long as he stays in Oakland as the starting SS, he's worth an early round selection. FA
4. SS Yeremiah Bell (MIA) - Over the last two seasons, Bell has averaged over 95 solo tackles. It doesn't get much better than that for a defensive back. Bell is oftentimes brought up close to the line of scrimmage for run support and is therefore used in a similar fashion to that of a linebacker. Bell is one of the safest choices at the defensive back position. You can expect 90-plus solo tackles again next season.
5. FS O.J. Atogwe (STL) - Atogwe is one of the best
ballhawks in the league. He always seems to be around the ball, and
consequently, he does a wonderful job of producing big plays as well as
solid tackle numbers. Playing on the Rams is an added bonus since their
defense is consistently on the field for much of the game. Atogwe
should remain in St. Louis and, now that he's healthy, return to top
five form. FA
6. SS Brian Dawkins (DEN) - Yes, Dawkins is old as
dirt (36 to be exact). However, you will be hard pressed to find a more
consistent fantasy defensive back. Over his nine seasons in the league,
Dawkins has consistently been a top 20 performer, and his move to
Denver has obviously taken his value to another level. I wouldn't
expect 95 solo tackles again (a career high), but as long as he doesn't
retire, Dawkins looks to be a solid play heading into next season.
7. FS Dashon Goldson (SF) - Goldson received the
opportunity to become an every game starter this season, and he ran
with it. I really like this kid. He gives you a good combination of
tackles (95 total tackles) and big plays (four INTs and three sacks).
Under defensive-minded head coach Mike Singletary, Goldson is only going to get better. S
8. SS Roman Harper (NO) - Harper started off the
season extremely hot. He was consistently putting up seven to nine
total tackles per week. However, because of injuries at both cornerback
positions, New Orleans stopped putting Harper in the box and used him
more in coverage. The move hurt his overall 2009 numbers (they were
still solid). With the cornerbacks healthy again, look for Harper to
further improve upon his 2009 numbers. FA
9. SS/WLB Bryan Scott (BUF) - Who? In my scoring
system, Scott averaged over 17 points per game largely due to the Bills
switching him to WLB during the middle of the season. If the Bills opt
to use Scott in his hybrid SS/WLB role again next year, he will be a
top 10 defensive back. However, his value slides quite substantially if
he is moved back solely to the SS position. There's also a chance he
doesn't start at all. With this being said, keep your eye on Scott's
10. FS Louis Delmas (DET) - Delmas, in my opinion, will come into 2010 fantasy drafts being slightly overvalued. Yes, he was the fourth leading scorer for defensive backs in my scoring system. However, those numbers are highly inflated due to two defensive touchdowns and a safety. When looking purely at his tackle numbers, he had 64 solo tackles and 29 assists, along with only two INTs, which are decent but not fantastic numbers. B
11. LCB Charles Woodson (GB) - I typically don't
like drafting "big play" cornerbacks like Woodson because their
production oftentimes varies from year to year. However, Woodson is a
rarity in that he has shown that he can come up with big plays year in
and year out. In addition, he had 71 solo tackles last year, which is
great for a cornerback. Although I wouldn't expect the same level of
tackle production next year, Woodson deserves to be a top 15 pick.
12. FS Antoine Bethea (IND) - Bethea has managed to
string together two top 20 seasons in a row from his free safety
position. Much of the attention in Indianapolis goes to the oft-injured
SS Bob Sanders. However, Bethea is the true fantasy
star of the Colts secondary. Look for Bethea to continue his trend of
top 20 finishes in 2010. FA
13. LCB Antoine Winfield (MIN) - Winfield's value
will probably take a slight hit heading into the 2010 draft because his
overall 2009 stats were below average due to injury problems. In my
opinion, Winfield is the best tackling cornerback in the league and
plays in a defensive scheme that uses Tampa-2, which gives Winfield
above average tackle opportunities. Winfield, when healthy, is a low
DB1/High DB2. S
14. LCB Charles Tillman (CHI) - Tillman's production dropped substantially in 2009 in large part due to recurring injuries. Tillman is one of the top five tackling fantasy cornerbacks, and he also provides decent big-play upside. If he can stay healthy, he remains a top 15 selection for defensive backs.
15. SS Troy Polamalu (PIT) - Polamalu is overrated
in the same way as SS Bob Sanders. He's a fantastic NFL player in real
life, but when it comes to fantasy football, he's more of a Tier 3 type
of player. "Mr. Head and Shoulders" does have a knack for finding the
ball, however, and has top 20 value if he can manage to stay
healthy for a full season. With all this in mind, don't be fooled by
the big name and reach for Polamalu too early though (i.e. Tier 1 or
Tier 2). B, R
16. SS Adrian Wilson (ARI) - I remember the days when Wilson was the best DB since sliced bread (circa 2004-2006). His disappointing 2007 and 2008 seasons left Wilson undrafted in many IDP leagues. However, under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis' aggressive defensive scheme, Wilson has had a resurgence. I like Wilson's big-play upside along with his run-stopping ability. Consequently, I have Wilson re-entering the top 20. Welcome back!
17. SS Jermaine Phillips (TB) - Phillips was on
many IDP owners' watch lists when the season began, and he probably
would have had a solid season had he not gone down with a season-ending
injury in Week Two. In his place, Tanard Jackson put together a top 10
year. I foresee Phillips picking up where Jackson left off next season.
18. FS Dawan Landry (BALT) - Landry was used more
in stopping the run this year than in previous years, and his tackle
numbers reflected that. Landry had 100 total tackles, and he threw in
five INTs. I expect some subsidence of his tackle numbers, but not
enough to put him out of the top 15. FA
19. FS Darren Sharper (NO) - Many readers may be
wondering why I have the No. 3 2009 point scorer for DBs listed so low.
It's because his numbers were significantly inflated. Sharper had four
defensive touchdowns in 2009 and nine interceptions. You take away
those four defensive touchdowns, and Sharper falls back to a mid-level
option at best. I'm willing to bet my left nut that he doesn't have
four defensive TDs again next year. OK, maybe not my nut. But you get
the point. FA, B
20. RCB Richard Marshall (CAR) - Marshall, along
with Charles Tillman and Antoine Winfield, is one of the top five
tackling cornerbacks in the league. In all four years in the league,
Marshall has had 68 solo tackles or more and usually throws in a couple
of sacks and a couple of INTs. He has a fairly significant chance of
being a top 25 performer every year. FA
21. FS Danieal Manning (CHI) - Through the first 10
games of the season, Manning was one of the best fantasy safeties in
the league. However, he was benched by head coach Lovie Smith
in Week 11 for blowing too many coverages. It remains to be seen how
the Bears will use Manning moving forward. However, I expect him to be
the starter next year and to put up top 20 numbers. But let's wait and
22. SS Erik Coleman (ATL) - If you're in a
tackle-heavy league, Coleman is one of the better options you have at
this position. In 2009, he registered 116 total tackles. In fact,
Coleman has had 100 total tackles or more in five out of his six
seasons in the NFL. On the down side, he doesn't generate many big
23. SS Brandon Meriweather (NE) - Although
Meriweather finished within the top 15 DBs for points scored, almost
one-fourth of his points came in one game. With this being said, I
really don't think Meriweather is a top 20 defensive back. However, he
doesn't have a ton of competition for tackles in New England, and he's
young and still learning, so he remains in the top 25. B
24. SS George Wilson (BUF) - Ranking Wilson and really any player in the Bills secondary is a difficult task this early in the offseason. Starting at SS last season, Wilson finished in the top 15 for points scored, and he missed the first three games of the season. If he is named the starting SS, he will more than likely move into at least the top 20, if not the top 15. S
25. FS LaRon Landry (WASH) - Landry made
significant strides last season in becoming a top 30 defensive back. He
managed to post a career high in solo tackles with 76, and he missed
the last game of the season. I expect the former sixth overall pick to
make further strides in 2010 and potentially crack the top 25. S
26. SS Mike Brown (KC) - Mike or "Michelle" Brown,
as I like to call him, surprisingly finished in the top 10 for points
scored at this position in 2009. Much of this was due to his above
average tackle opportunities (KC's defense was on the field a lot). I
think the Chiefs are going to be much improved next year, and
consequently Brown's numbers will take a hit. There's always a good
chance he gets hurt as well. Hence, the lower ranking. R
27. RCB Cedric Griffin (MIN) - Griffin came into the 2009 season as one of the top-ranked cornerbacks thanks to his back-to-back 80-plus solo tackle seasons. Cedric had somewhat of an off season tackle-wise by only coming up with 65 solo tackles. However, he made up for it with a career-high four INTs. With a healthy Winfield back in the lineup next, look for Griffin's tackle numbers to rise slightly.
28. LCB Nick Harper (TEN) - Harper is one of those
cornerbacks you love to own. He sucks just enough for opposing QBs to
throw at him, so he can rack up good tackle numbers, but he's not so
bad where he gets benched and gets you nothing. In limited action due
to injury in 2009, Harper averaged nearly seven solo tackles per game.
Harper should be good for 80-plus total tackles and a few picks next
year. FA, S
29. RCB Cortland Finnegan (TEN) - Finnegan, similar to teammate Harper, is a cornerback at whom many opposing QBs love to throw. Consequently, Finnegan typically has above average tackle and interception opportunities. For the second straight season, Finnegan had five INTs. For these reasons, Finnegan makes it into the top 30.
30. SS Quintin Mikell (PHI) - I've never been a huge fan of Mikell's. It seems as though every week in which I pick him up, he burns me. However, over the course of a full season his numbers tend to average out. In fact, in each of the last two seasons, Mikell has finished with top 30 numbers, and he set a career high for total tackles last season with 97. He's usually a dependable DB3.